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An angel (Greek: angelos, "messenger") is a celestial being believed to function as a messenger or agent of God in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. In the Near Eastern antecedents to Judaism, angels were often understood to be gods or lesser divinities. Their existence was taken for granted by the biblical authors. The use of the word angel may have been a way of describing what was believed to be an appearance of God himself in human form.

In the Old Testament, angels are called "messengers," "men," "powers," "princes," "sons of God," and the "heavenly host." They either have no body or one that is only apparent. They come as God's messengers to aid or punish, are assigned to individual persons or nations, and often have a name (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel). New Testament statements about angels reflect Jewish views of these beings. Angels, for example, announced Christ's birth (Luke 2) and resurrection (Matthew 28).

Ancient and medieval peoples widely accepted the influence of good spirits, or angels, and evil spirits, or fallen angels (see Demon; Satan). During the Middle Ages, theologians developed a hierarchy of angels. They were classified in the following nine ranks (beginning with the lowest): angels, archangels, principalities, powers, virtues, dominations, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim. Angels are a popular subject in folklore, literature, and art.

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Anthony J. Saldarini

Davidson, Gustav, A Dictionary of Angels (1967); Field, M. J., Angels and Ministers of Grace (1972); Heidt, W. G., Angelology of the Old Testament (1949); Regamey, Raymond, What Is an Angel?, trans. by Mark Pontifex (1960).


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Angel is a word signifying, both in the Hebrew and Greek, a "messenger," and hence employed to denote any agent God sends forth to execute his purposes. It is used of an ordinary messenger (Job 1:14: 1 Sam. 11:3; Luke 7:24; 9:52), of prophets (Isa. 42:19; Hag. 1:13), of priests (Mal. 2:7), and ministers of the New Testament (Rev. 1:20). It is also applied to such impersonal agents as the pestilence (2 Sam. 24: 16, 17; 2 Kings 19:35), the wind (Ps. 104:4). But its distinctive application is to certain heavenly intelligences whom God employs in carrying on his government of the world.

The name does not denote their nature but their office as messengers. The appearances to Abraham at Mamre (Gen. 18:2, 22. Comp. 19:1), to Jacob at Peniel (Gen. 32:24, 30), to Joshua at Gilgal (Josh. 5:13, 15), of the Angel of the Lord, were doubtless manifestations of the Divine presence, "foreshadowings of the incarnation," revelations before the "fulness of the time" of the Son of God.

From that time onward there are frequent references to their ministry on earth (Gen. 18; 19; 24:7, 40; 28:12; 32:1). They appear to rebuke idolatry (Judg. 2:1-4), to call Gideon (Judg. 6:11, 12), and to consecrate Samson (13:3). In the days of the prophets, from Samuel downward, the angels appear only in their behalf (1 Kings 19: 5; 2 Kings 6:17; Zech. 1-6; Dan. 4:13, 23; 10:10, 13, 20, 21). The Incarnation introduces a new era in the ministrations of angels. They come with their Lord to earth to do him service while here. They predict his advent (Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:26-38), minister to him after his temptation and agony (Matt. 4:11; Luke 22:43), and declare his resurrection and ascension (Matt. 28:2-8; John 20:12, 13; Acts 1:10, 11). They are now ministering spirits to the people of God (Heb. 1:14; Ps. 34:7; 91:11; Matt. 18:10; Acts 5:19; 8:26; 10:3; 12:7; 27:23). They rejoice over a penitent sinner (Luke 15:10). They bear the souls of the redeemed to paradise (Luke 16:22); and they will be the ministers of judgement hereafter on the great day (Matt. 13:39, 41, 49; 16:27; 24:31).

The passages (Ps. 34:7, Matt. 18:10) usually referred to in support of the idea that every individual has a particular guardian angel have no such meaning. They merely indicate that God employs the ministry of angels to deliver his people from affliction and danger, and that the angels do not think it below their dignity to minister even to children and to the least among Christ's disciples. The "angel of his presence" (Isa. 63:9. Comp. Ex. 23:20, 21; 32:34; 33:2; Nu,m. 20:16) is probably rightly interpreted of the Messiah as the guide of his people. Others have supposed the expression to refer to Gabriel (Luke 1:19).

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)


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Angelos, from which "angel" derives, is in itself a colorless word like its main Hebrew equivalent. It may denote either a human or a heavenly "messenger." Yet in the NT, except in Luke 7:24; 9:52; and perhaps Rev. 1:20, it is used only for heavenly beings. Rightly, therefore, the Vulgate introduced a distinction between angelus and nuntius which modern renderings and usage have maintained.

The term chosen by Scripture to denote angels gives us the clue to the function by which they are primarily to be known and understood. They are God's messengers or ambassadors. They belong to his heavenly court and serice. Their mission in heaven is to praise him (Rev. 4:5). They devote themselves to doing his will (Ps. 103:20) and in this activity they behold his face (Matt. 18:10). Since heaven comes down to earth, they also have a mission on earth. They accompany God in his work of creation (Job 38:7), though they themselves are also creatures (Ps. 148:2, 5). They also assist in God's providential ordering of affairs (Dan. 12:1). Above all they are active in the divine work of reconciliation (from Gen. 19:1-2 onward). In fulfillment of their mission they declare God's word (e.g., Luke 1:26-27) and do his work (e.g., Matt. 28:2). There seems to be some ordering in their ranks; some are referred to as archangels, as over against those who are referred to as simply angels (1 Thess. 4:16; Jude 9).

The function of angels may be seen clearly from their part in the saving mission of Jesus Christ. They are naturally present when this both begins with the nativity (Matt. 1; Luke 1-3) and ends with the resurrection (Matt. 28:2 and pars.) and ascension (Acts 1:10ff.). They also assist the church in its early ministry (e.g., Acts 5:19; 10:3). They will play an important part in the events of the end time (Rev. 7:1ff., etc.). Finally they will come with Christ when he returns in glory (Matt. 24:31) and separate the righteous and the wicked (Matt. 13:41, 49). They do not do the real work of reconciliation, which is Christ's prerogative. But they accompany and declare this work, praising the God of grace and glory and summoning men and women to participate in their worship (Luke 1:46). Interestingly, there seem to be only two angelic appearances between Christ's birth and resurrection: at the beginning of his way to the cross in the temptation (Mark 1:12) and then before the crucifixion itself in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43). This is perhaps because Jesus had to tread his way of atoning self-giving alone, and in his humiliation he is made a little lower than the angels (Heb. 2:9), though exalted far above them by nature (Heb. 1). Yet angels did not withdraw from the scene, for they rejoice at sinners repenting (Luke 15:10) and will hear the Son of man confess those who confess him (Luke 12:8-9).

The Bible offers only a few hints about the nature of angels. Belonging to the heavenly sphere, they cannot be properly conceived of in earthly terms. They are mostly described in relation to God, as his angels (e.g., Ps. 104:4). The two angelic names, Michael and Gabriel, emphasize this relationship with the el ending. It is as God's angels, perhaps, that they are called "elect" in 1 Tim. 5:21. Heb. 1:14 describes them as "ministering spirits" in a conflation of the two parts of Ps. 104:4. Elsewhere, in Job and Psalms, they figure as the "heavenly ones" (Ps. 29:1) or the "holy ones" (Job 5:1) who are set apart for God's service; both these terms occur in Ps. 89:6-7, though "sons of God" is here another rendering of "heavenly ones" in vs. 6 (cf. Ps. 29:1). The "gods" of Ps. 82:1, in whose midst God holds judgment, are often thought to be angels too. Since Christians can also be called God's children, we need not infer from this usage, as did some of the apologists, that the angels are lesser deities. Indeed, the Bible clearly warns us not to worship them (Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10).

Among the heavenly beings mention is made of the seraphim (Isa. 6:2) and, more frequently, the cherubim. Cherubim guarded Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:24). They form God's chariot at his descent (Ps. 18:10). Figures of cherubim adorned the ark (Exod. 25:17ff.) and Solomon's temple (I Kings 6:23ff.), so that Yahweh is said to be enthroned above the cherubim (I Sam. 4:4; Ps. 80:1). Ezekiel offers an elaborate visionary description (Ezek. 1:10; 9:3; 10:15-22) in which their form is human (1:5) but symbolical traits stress their glory and spiritual excellence. Common paradise traditions may underlie Assyro-Babylonian parallels.

Of the angels named, Michael is called "the great prince" (Dan. 12:1) and the other angels seem to be led by him (Rev. 12:7), though God himself, of course, is the Lord of hosts and Prince of the host (Dan. 8:11). The man who appeared to Joshua in Josh. 5:13ff., usually taken to be an angel, says that he has come as commander of the army of the Lord, Gabriel, the other angel named in canonical Scripture, is the angel of the annunciation (Luke 1:26). Distinctions seem to be indicated in Rev. 4-5 with the references to the beasts and the elders, but the exact significance of these terms is disputed. The apocryphal writings provide three more angelic names, Raphael, Uriel, and Jermiel. Tob. 12:15 calls Raphael one of the holy angels who present the prayers of the saints (cf. the seven who stand before God in Rev. 8:2 and the possible link between these seven and the "chief princes" of Dan. 10:13).

From the various statements about the nature of angels, and Paul's use of the terms "principalities," "powers," "thrones," "dominions," and "forces," early and medieval theology evolved a complex speculative account of the angelic world. Pseudo-Dionysius found separate entities in these, and he grouped them with the seraphim, cherubim, archangels, and angels in a threefold hierarchy of nine choirs. Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, adopted a similar scheme in his full and acute discussion but was more interested in the nature of angels as individual, spatial, spiritual substances engaged primarily in the work of enlightenment and capable of rational demonstration (Summa contra Gentiles 91; Summa Theologica 50-64).

As Calvin saw, the error in so much angelology was to deal with angels apart from the biblical witness. Even regarding their function there was a tendency to rationalize or to focus interest on the idea of the guardian angel (cf. Matt. 18:10 and perhaps Acts 12:15). An inevitable reaction came in the age of the Enlightenment and liberal Protestantism when angels were either dismissed as fantastic, submitted to reinterpretation, or explained away as the relics of an original polytheism.

Some legitimate deductions may certainly be made from the biblical data. Though they come in human form, the angels are essentially noncorporeal. Present at creation, they are still creatures (Ps. 148:2, 5). They form an ordered unity, yet their plurality entails the existence of individuals within the totality, with a possible gradation in function. As compared with humans they have the advantage of being in God's immediate presence and serving as his direct messengers. They also guard the proprieties, if that is the meaning of I Cor. 11:10, and seem to play some role in or over the nations (Dan. 10). But when men and women respond to God's saving work in Christ they are raised above them, enjoy their ministry (Heb. I:14), and will finally judge them (I Cor. 6:3), for even angels are not faultless in God's eyes (Job 4:18; 15:15).

Has there been a fall of angels? Jude 6 suggests this, and Irenaeus (Against Heresies iv. 37.1) and many fathers took this view. Certainly the Bible speaks of the dragon and his angels (Rev. 12:7) and also of powers of evil (Eph. 6:12), so that while we cannot be too dogmatic on the subject, we have to assume that there is a real kingdom of evil in grotesque caricature of the angelic kingdom. These angels and their leader were defeated at the cross (Col. 2:15) and will finally be condemned (Matt. 25:41).

A last question concerns the so-called angel of the Lord. In Judg. 13:2-3 this seems to be identical with God. Many have thought, then, that in the OT at least the reference is to the preincarnate Logos. Liberals have explained it as a softening of theophany to angelophany but without showing why this does not always apply. Another possible interpretation is that God speaks so fully through the angel that he himself is virtually speaking. Certainly the "angel of the Lord" of Luke 2:9 is not Christ, but this does not in itself rule out such an equation in the OT.

G W Bromiley

(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

K. Barth, Church Dogmatics III/3, 51; H. Cremer et al., SHERK, I, 174-78; HDB, I, 93; W. Grundmann et al., TDNT, I, 74-87; J. M. Wilson, ISBE (rev.), I, 124-27.

Angel of the Lord

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In the OT and NT the angel of the Lord (mal'ak yhwh) is represented as acting on behalf of the nation of Israel as well as of individuals. The lack of precise data in the OT with regard to the identification of this figure and his relationship to Yahweh has given rise to a number of conclusions. Eichrodt understands the presence of this figure in the literature of the OT as an attempt to express the concept of theophany in a less direct manner because of the early realization that it is impossible to see God. Von Rad suggests that the figure may have been inserted into some of the older traditions in place of an original Canaanite numen. However, this presupposes an already concrete idea of the concept and does not explain its origin or the nature of the concept in early Israelite religion.

Many understand the angel of the Lord as a true theophany. From the time of Justin on, the figure has been regarded as the preincarnate Logos. It is beyond question that the angel of the Lord must be identified in some way with God (Gen. 16:13; Judg. 6:14; 13:21-22), yet he is distinguished from God in that God refers to the angel (Exod. 23:23; 32:34), speaks to him (II Sam. 24:16; I Chr. 21:27), and the angel speaks to Yahweh (Zech. 1:12). The evidence for the view that the angel of the Lord is a preincarnate appearance of Christ is basically analogical and falls short of being conclusive. The NT does not clearly make that identification. It is best to see the angel as a self-manifestation of Yahweh in a form that would communicate his immanence and direct concern to those to whom he ministered.

T E McComiskey

(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

H. Bietenhard et al., NIDNTT, I, 101-5; W. Eichrodt, Theology of the OT; P. Heinisch, Theology of the OT; G. von Rad, OT Theology.


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Angel, "a messenger" (from angello, "to deliver a message"), sent whether by God or by man or by Satan, "is also used of a guardian or representative in Rev. 1:20, cf. Matt. 18:10; Acts 12:15 (where it is better understood as 'ghost'), superior to man, Heb. 2:7; Ps. 8:5, belonging to Heaven, Matt. 24:36; Mark 12:25, and to God, Luke 12:8, and engaged in His service, Ps. 103:20. "Angels" are spirits, Heb. 1:14, i.e., they have not material bodies as men have; they are either human in form, or can assume the human form when necessary, cf. Luke 24:4, with v. 23, Acts 10:3 with v. 30. "They are called 'holy' in Mark 8:38, and 'elect,' 1 Tim. 5:21, in contrast with some of their original number, Matt. 25:41, who 'sinned,' 2 Pet. 2:4, 'left their proper habitation,' Jude 6, oiketerion, a word which occurs again, in the NT, only in 2 Cor. 5:2. Angels are always spoken of in the masculine gender, the feminine form of the word does not occur."

From Notes on Thessalonians, by Hogg and Vine, p. 229.

Note: Isangelos, "equal to the angels," occurs in Luke 20:36.

Jewish Angelology and Demonology
The Fall of the Angels

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(from Appendix XIII From Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
by Alfred Edersheim, 1886)

(See vol. i. Book III. ch. i. p. 306.)

WITHOUT here entering on a discussion of the doctrine of Angels of devils as present in Holy Scriptures, the Apocrypha, and the Pseudepigrapha, it will be admitted that considerable progression may be marked as we advance from even the latest Canonical to Apocryphal, and again from these to the Pseudepigraphic Writings. The same remark applies even more strongly to a comparison of the later with Rabbinic literature. There we have comparatively little of the Biblical in its purity. But, added to it, we now find much that is the outcome of Eastern or of prurient imagination, of national conceit, of ignorant superstition, and of foreign, especially Persian, elements.

In this latter respect it is true, not, indeed, as regards the doctrine of good and evil Angels, but much of its Rabbinic elaboration, that 'the names of the Angels (and of the months) were brought form Babylon ' (Jer. Rosh. haSh. 56 d; Ber. r. 48), and with the 'names,' not a few of the notions regarding them. At the same time, it would be unjust to deny that mush of the symbolism which it is evidently intended to convey is singularly beautiful.


1. Creation, Number, Duration and Location of the Angels.

We are now considering, not the Angel-Princes but that vast unnumbered 'Host' generally designated as 'the ministering Angels'. Opinions differ (Ber. R. 3) whether they were created on the second day as being 'spirit,' winds' (Ps. civ. 4), or on the fifth day (Is. vi. 2) in accordance with the words of Creation on those days. Viewed in reference to God's Service and Praise, they are 'a flaming fire': in regard to their office, winged messengers (Pirge de R. El. 4). But not only so: every day ministering Angels are created, whose apparent destiny is only to raise the praise of God, after which they pass away into the fiery stream (Nahar deNur) whence they originally issued [1 This stream issued from under the throne of God, and is really the sweat of the 'living creatures' in their awe at the glory of God (Ber. R. 78).] (Chag. 14a; Ber. R. 78).

More than this, a new Angel is created to execute to every behest of God, and then passeth away (Chag. u. s.). This continual new creation of Angels, which God, and then passeth allegory, partly savours of the doctrine of 'emanation,' is Biblical supported by an appeal to Lament. iii. 23. Thus it may be said that daily a Kath, or company of Angels is created for daily service of God, and that every word which proceedeth from His mouth becomes an 'Angel' [Messenger, mark here the ideal unity of Word and Deed], (Chang. 14 a).

The vast number of that Angelic Host, and the consequent safety of Israel as against its enemies, was described in the most hyperbolic language. There were 12 Mazzaloth (signs of the Zodiac), each having 30 chiefs of armies, each chief with 30 legions, each legion with 30 leaders, each leader with 30 captains, each captain with 30 under him, and each of these things with 365,000 stars, and all were created for the sake of Israel! (Ber. 32. b.)

Similarly, when Nebuchadnezzar proposed to ascend into heaven, and to exalt his throne above the stars, and be like the Most High, the Bath Qol replied to this grandson of Nimrod that man's age was 70, or at most 80 years, while the way from earth to the firmament occupied 500 years, [a In Jer. Ber 2 c it is 50 years.] a thickness of the firmament was 500 years, the feet of the living creatures were equal to all that had preceded, and the joints of their feet to as many as had preceded them, and so on increasingly through all their members up to their horns, after which came the Throne of Glory, the feet of which again equaled all that had preceded, and so on (Chag. 13 a [b See also Pes. 94 b.]).

[1 Some add the Cherubim as another and separate class.] In connection with this we read in Chag. 12 b that there are seven heavens: the Vdon, in which there is the sun; Riqia, in which the sun shines, and the moon, stars, and planets are fixed; Shechaqim, in which are the millstones to make the manna for the pious; Aebhul, in which the Upper Jerusalem, and the Temple and the Altar, and in which Michael, the chief Angel-Prince, offers sacrifices; Maon, in which the Angels of the Ministry are, who sing by night and are silent by day for the sake of the honour of Israel (who now have their services); Machon, in which are the treasuries of snow, hail, the chambers of noxious dews, and of the receptacles of water, the chamber of wind, and the cave of mist, and their doors are of fire; lastly, Araboth, wherein Justice, Judgment and Righteousness are, the treasures of Life, of Peace and of Blessing, the soul of the righteous, and the spirits and souls of those who are to be born in the future, and the dew by which the dead are to be raised.

There also are the Ophanim, and the Seraphim, and the living creatures and the ministering Angels, and the Throne of Glory and over them is enthroned the Great King. [For a description of this Throne and of the Appearance of its King, see Pirqe de R. Eliez. 4.] On the other hand, sometimes every power and phenomenon in Nature is hypostatised into an Angel, such as hail, rain, wind, sea &c.; similarly, every occurrence, such as life, death, nourishment, poverty, nay, as it is expressed: there is not stalk of grass upon earth but it has its Angels in heaven 'Ber R. 10). This seems to approximate the views of Alexandrian Mysticism. So also, perhaps, the idea that certain Biblical heroes became after death Angels. But as this may be regarded as implying their service as messengers of God, we leave it for the present.

2. The Angel-Princes, their location, names, and offices.

Any limitation, as to duration or otherwise, of the Ministering Angels does not apply either to the Ophanim (or wheel-angels), the Seraphim, the Cayoth (or living creatures), nor to the Angel-Princes (Ber. R. 78). [2 According to Jer Ber. ix. 1, the abode of the living creatures was to an extent of 515 years' journey, which is proved from the numerical value of the word 'straight' (Ezek. i. 7).] In Chag. 13 a, b the name Chashamal is given to the 'living creatures.' The word is explained as composed of two other which mean silence and speech, it being beautifully explained, that they deep silence when the Word proceeds out of the mouth of God, and speak when He has ceased.

It would be difficult exactly to state the number of the Angel-Princes. The 70 nations, of which the world is composed, had each their Angel-Prince (Targ. Jer.on Gen xi.7, 8; comp. Ber. R. 56; Shem. R. 21; Vayyi. R. 29; Ruth R. ed. Warsh. p. 36 b), who plead their cause with God. Hence these Angels are really hostile to Israel, and may be regarded as not quite good Angels, and are cast down when the nationality which they represent is destroyed. It may have been as a reflection on Christian teaching that Israel was described as not requiring any representative with God, like the Gentiles. For, as will soon appear, this was not the general view entertained.

Besides these Gentiles Angel-Princes there were other chiefs, whose office will be explained in the sequel. Of these 5 are specially mentioned, of whom four surrounded the Throne of God: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel. But the greatest of all is Metatron, who is under the Throne, and before it. These Angels are privileged to be within the Pargod, or cloudy veil, while the others only hear the Divine commands or councils outside this curtain (Chag. 16 a, Pirque d. R. El. iv.). It is a slight variation when the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Deut. xxxiv. 6 enumerates the following as the 6 principal Angels: Michael, Gabriel, Metatron, Yopheil, Uriel, and Yophyophyah. The Book of Enoch (ch. xx.) speaks also of 6 principal Angels, while Pirque d. R. Eliez. iv. mentions seven.

In that very curious passage (Berakhoth 51 a) we read of three directions given by Suriel, Prince of the Face, to preserve the Rabbis from the Techaspith (company of Evil Angels), or according to others, form Istalganith (another company of Evik Angels. In Chag. 132 b we read of an Angel called Sandalpon, who stands upon the earth, while his head reaches 500 years' way beyond the living creatures. He is supposed to stand behind the Merkabah (the throne-chariot), and make crowns for the Creator, which rise of their own accord. We also read of Sagsagel, who taught Moses the sacred Name of God, and was present at his death. But, confining ourselves to the five principal Angel-chiefs, we have,

a. Metatron, [1 On the controversy on the meaning of the name Metatron, whether it means under the throne, or behind the throne, or is the same as Meatator, divider, arranger, representative, we will not enter.] who appears most closely to correspond to the Angel of the Face, or the Logos. He is the representative of God. In the Talmud (Sanh. 38 b) a Christian is introduced as clumsily starting a controversy on this point, that, according to the Jewish contention, Exod. xxiv. 1 should have read, 'Come up to Me.'

On this R. Idith explained that the expression referred to the Metatron (Exod. xxxiii. 21, but denied the inference that Metatron was either to be adored, or had power to forgive sins, or that he was to be regarded as a Mediator. In continuation of this controversy we are told (Chang. 15 a, b) that, when an apostate Rabbi had seen Metatron sitting in heaven, and would have interfered from it that there were two supreme powers, Metatron received from another Angel 60 fiery stripes so as to prove his inferiority! In Targ. Ps.-Jon. on Gen. v. 24 he is called the Great Scribe, and also the Prince of this world.

He is also designated as 'the Youth,' and in the Kabbalah as 'the Little God,' who had 7 names like the Almighty, and shared His Majesty. he is also called the 'Prince of the Face,' and described as the Angel who sits in the innermost chamber (Chang. 5 b), while the other Angels hear their commands outside the Veil (Chang. 16 a). He is represented as showing the unseen to Moses (Siphre. p. 141 a), and as instructing infants to the Midrash on Lamentation there is a revolting story in which Metatron is represented as proposing to shed tears in order that God might not have to weep over the destruction of Jerusalem, to which, however, the Almighty is made to refuse His assent.

We hesitate to quote further from the passage. In Siphre on Deut. (ed. freidm. p. 141 a) Metatron is said to have shown Moses the whole of Palestine. He is alos said to have gone before Israel in the Wilderness.

b. Michael ('who is like God?'), or the Great Prince (Chag. 12b). He stands at the right hand of the throne of God. According to Targ. Ps.-Jon. on Exod. xxiv. 1, he is the Prince of Wisdom. According to the Targum on Ps. cxxxvii. 7, 8, the Prince of Jerusalem, the representative of Israel. According to Sebach. 62 a he offers upon the heavenly Altar; according to some, the soul of the pious; according to others, lambs of fire. But, although Michael is the Prince of Israel, he is not to be invoked by them (Jer. Ber. ix. 13 a). In Yoma 77 a we have an instance of his ineffectual advocacy for Israel before the destruction of Jerusalem. The origin of his name as connected with the Song of Moses at the Red Sea is explained in Bemidb. R. 2. Many instance of his activity are related.

Thus, he delivered Abraham from the fiery oven of Nimrod, and afterwards, also, the Three Children out of the fiery furnace. He was the principal or middle Angel of the three who come to announce to Abraham the birth of Isaac, Gabriel being at his right, and Raphael at his left. Michael also saved Lot. Michael and Gabriel wrote down that the primogeniture belonged to Jacob, and God confirmed it. Michael and Gabriel acted as 'friends of the bridegroom' in the nuptials of Adam. Yet they could not bear to look upon the glory of Moses. Michael is also supposed to have been the Angel in the bush (according to others, Gabriel). At the death of Moses, Michael prepared his bier, Gabriel spread a cloth over the head of Moses, and Sagsagel over his feet.

In the world to come Michael would pronounce the blessing over the fruits of Eden, then hand them to Gabriel, who would give them to the patriarchs, and so on to David. The superiority of Michael over Gabriel is asserted in Ber. 4 b, where, by an ingenious combination with Dan. x. 13, it is shown that Is. vi. 6 applies to him (both having the word, one). It is added that Michael flies in one fight, Gabriel in two, Elijah in four, and the Angel of Death in eight flights (no doubt to give time for repentance).

c. Gabriel ('the Hero of God') represents rather judgment, while Michael represents mercy. Thus he destroyed Skodom (Bab. Mex. 86 b, and other places). He restored to Tamar the pledges of Judah, which Sammael had taken away (Sot. 10 b). He struck the servants of the Egyptian princess, who would have kept their mistress from taking Moses out of the water (Sot. 12 b); also Moses, that he might cry and so awaken pity. According to some, it was he who delivered the Three Children; but all are agreed that he killed the men that were standing outside the furnace. He also smote the army of Sennacherib.

The passage in Ezek. x. 2, 7 was applied to Gabriel, who had received from the Chureb two coals, which, however, he retained for six years, in the hope that Israel might repent. [a Gabriel was also designated Itmon, because he stops up the sing of Israel (Sanh. 45 b).] He is supposed to be referred to in Ezek. ix. 4 as affixing the mark on the forehead which is a drawn, in the wicked, in blood (Shabb. 55 a). We are also told that he had instructed Moses about making the Candlestick, on which occasion he had put on an apron, like a goldsmith; and that he had disputed with Michael about the meeting of a word. To his activity the brining of fruits to maturity is ascribed, perhaps because he was regarded as made of fire, while Michael was made of snow (Deb. R. 5).

These Angels are supposed to stand beside each other, without the fire of the one injuring the snow of the other. The curious legend is connected with him (Shabb. 56 b, Sanh. 21 b), that, when Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh, Gabriel descended into the sea, and fixed a reed in it, around which a mudbank gathered, on which a forest sprang up. On this site imperial Rome was built. The meaning of the legend, or perhaps rather allegory, seems (as explained in other parts of this book) that, when Israel began to decline from God, the punishment through its enemies was prepared, which culminated in the dominion of Rome. In the future age Gabriel would hunt and slay Leviathan. This also may be a parabolic representation of the destruction of Israel's enemies.

d. Of Uriel ('God is my light') and Raphael ('God heals') it need only be said, that the one stands at the left side of the Throne of glory, the other behind it. [1 The names of the four Angel-Princess, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael, are explained in Bemid. R. 2.]

3. The Ministering Angels and their Ministry.

The ministry of the Angels may be divided into two parts, that of praising God, and that of executing His behests. In regard to the former, there are 684,000 myriads who daily praise the Name of God. From sunrise to sundown they say: Holy, holy, holy, and from sundown to sunrise: Blessed bore the Glory of God from its place. In connection with this we may mention the beautiful allegory (Shem. R. 21) that the Angel of prayer waves crowns for God out of the prayer of Israel. As to the execution of the Divine commands by the Angels, it is suggested (Aboth d. R. Nathan 8, that their general designation as ministering Angels might have led to jealousy among them.

Accordingly, their names were always a composition of that of God with the special commission entrusted to them (Shem. r. 29), so that the name of each Angel depended in Yalkut (vol. ii. Par. 797), where we are told that each Angel has a tablet on his heart, in which the Name of God and that of the Angel is combined. This change of names explained the answer of the Angel to Manoah (Bemidb. R. 10). It is impossible to enumerate all the instance of Angelic activity recorded in Talmudic writings. Angels had performed the music at the first sacrifice of Adam; they had announced the consequences of his punishment; they had cut off the hands and feet of the serpent; they had appeared to Abraham in the form of a baker, a sailor, and an Arab.

120,000 of them had danced before Jacob when he left Laban; 4,000 myriads of them were ready to fight for him against Esau; 22,000 of them descended on Sinai and stood beside Israel when, in their terror at the Voice of God, they fled for twelve miles. Angels were directed to close the gates of heaven when the prayer of Moses with the All-powerful, Ineffable Name in it, which he had learn from Sagsagel, would have prevented his death. Finally, as they were pledged to help Israel, so would they also punish every apostate Israelite. Especially would they execute that most terrible punishment of throwing souls to each other from one word to another.

By the side of these debasing superstitions we come upon beautiful allegories, such sa that a good and an evil Angel always accompanied man, but especially on the eve of the Sabbath when he returned from the Synagogue, and that for every precept he observed God sent him a protecting Angel. This is realistically developed in Pirke d. R. El. 15, where the various modes and time which the god Angels keep man from destruction are set forth.

It is quite in accordance with what we know of the system of Rabbinism, that the heavenly host should be represented as forming a sort of consultative Sanhedrin. Since God never did anything without first taking counsel with the family above (Sanh. 38 b,) [2 According to Jer. Ber. ix. 7 (p. 14 b), God only takes counsel with His Sanhedrin when He takes away, not when He giveth (Job i. 21), and it is argued that, wherever the expression 'and Jehovah' occurs, as in the last clause of 1 Kings xxii. 23m ut n eabs God His Sanhedrin.] it had been so when He resolved to create man. Afterward the Angels had interceded for Adam, and, when God pointed to his disobedience, they had urged that thus death would also come upon Moses and Aron, who were sinless, since one fate must come to the just and the unjust. Similarly, they had intercede for Isaac, when Abraham was about to offer him and finally dropped there tears on the sacrificial knife, by which its edge became blunted. And so through the rest of Israel's history, where on all critical occasion Jewish legend introduces the Angels on the scene.

4. Limitation of the power of the Angels.

According to Jewish ideas, the faculties, the powers, and even the knowledge of Angels were limited. They are, indeed, pure spiritual beings (Vayyikra R. 24), without sensuous requirements (Yoma 75 b), without hatred, envy, or jealousy (Clhag. 14), and without sin (Pirqe d. R. El. 46). They know much, notably the future (Ab. d. R. Nath. 37), and have in the Divine Light. They live on the beams of the Divine Glory (Bem. R. 21), are not subject t our limitatious as to movement, see but are not seen (A b. d. R. Nath. u. s.), can turn their face to any side (Ab. d. R. Nath. 37), and only appear to share in our ways, such as in eating (Bar. R. 48).

Still, in many respects they are inferior to Israel, and had been employed in ministry (Ber. R. 75). They were unable to give names to the animals, which Adam did (Priqe d. R. El. 13). Jocob had wrestled with the Angel and prevailed over him when the Angel wept (Chull. 95 a). Thus it was rather their nature than their powers or dignity which distinguished them from man. No angel could do two messages at the same time (Ber. R. 50). In general they are merely instruments blindly to do a certain work, not even beholding the Throne of Glory (Bemidb. R. 14), but needed mutual assistance (Vayyikia R. 31).

They are also liable to punishments (Chag. 16 a). Thus, they were banished from their station for 138 years, because they had told Lot that God would destroy Sodom, while the Angel-Princes of the Gentiles were kept in chains till the days of Jeremiah. As regards their limited knowledge, with the exception of Gabriel, they do not understand Chaldee or Syriac (Sot. 33 a). The realistic application of their supposed ignorance on this score need not here be repeated (see Shabb. 12 b). As the Angels are inferior to the righteous, it follows that they are so to Israel. God had informed the Angels that the creation of man was superior to theirs, and it had excited their envy. Adam attained a place much nearer to God than they, and God loved Israel more than the Angels. And God had left all the ministering Angels in order to come to Moses, and when He communicated with him it was directly, and the Angels standing between them did not hear what passed.

In connection with this ministry of the Angels on behalf of Biblical heroes a curious legend may here find its place. From a combination of Ex. xviii. 4 with Ex. ii. 15 the strange inference was made that Moses had actually been seized by Pharaoh. Two different accounts of how he escaped from his power are given. According to the one, the sword with which he was to be executed rebounded from the neck of Moses, and was broken, to which Cant. vii. 5 was supposed to refer, it being added that the rebound killed the would-be executioner. According to another account, an Angel took the place of Moses, and thus enabled him to fly, his flight being facilitated by the circumstances that all the attendants of the king were miraculously rendered either dumb, deaf, or blind, so that they could not execute the behest of their master.

Of this miraculous interposition Moses is supposed to have been reminded in Ex. iv. 11, for hid encouragement in undertaking his mission ot Pharaoh. In the exaggeration of Jewish boastfulness in the Law, it was said that the Angels had wished to receive the Law, but that they had not been granted this privilege (Job xxviii. 21). And sixty myriads of Angels had crowned with two crowns every Israelite who at Mount Sinai had taken upon himself the Law (Shabb. 88 a). In view of all VOL. ii. this we need scarcely mention the Rabbinic prohibition to address to the Angels prayers, even although they bore them to heaven (Jer. Ber. ix. 1), or to make pictorial representations of them (Targ. Ps-Jon. on Ex. xx. 23; Mechilta on the passage, ed. Weiss, p. 80 a).

5. The Angels are not absolutely good.

Strange as it may seem, this is really the view expressed by the Rabbis. Thus it is said that, when God consulted the Angels, they opposed the creation of man, and that, for this reason, God had concealed from them that man would sin. but more than this, the Angels had actually conspired for the fall of man (the whole of this is also related in Pirqe d. R. El. 13). Nor had their jealous and envy been confined to that occasion. They had accused Abraham, that, when he gave a great feast at the weaning of Isaac, he did not even offer to God a bullock or a goat. Similarly, they had laid charges against Ishmael, in the hope that he might be left to perish of thirst.

They had expostulated with Jacob, because he went to sleep at Bethel. But especially had they, from envy, opposed Moses' ascension into heaven; they had objected to his being allowed to write down the Law, falsely urging that Moses would claim the glory of it for himself, and they are represented, in a strangely blasphemous manner, as having been with difficulty appeared by God. In Shabb. 88 b we have an account of how Mosses pacified the Angels, by showing that the Law was not suitable for them, since they were not subject to sinful desires, upon which they became the friends of Moses, and each taught him some secret, among others the Angel of death how to arrest the pestilence. Again, it is said, that the Angels were wont to bring charges against Israel, and that, when Manasseh wished to repent, the Angels shut the entrance to heaven , so that his prayer might not penetrate into the presence of God.

Equally profane, though in another direction, is the notion that Angels might be employed for magical purposes. This had happened at the siege of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar, when, after the death of that mighty hero Abika, the son of Gaphteri, Chananeel, the uncle of Jeremiah, had conjured up ministering Angels, who affrighted the Chaldees into flight. On this God had changed their names, when Chananeel, unable any longer to command their services, had summoned up the Prince of the World by using the Ineffable Name, and lifted Jerusalem into the air, but God had trodden it down again, to all which Lam. ii. 1 referred (Yalk. vol. ii. p. 166 c and d, Par. 1001).

The same story is repeated in another place (p. 167, last line of col. c, and col. d), with the addition that the leading inhabitants of Jerusalem had proposed to defend the city by conjuring up the Angels of Water and Fire, and surrounding their city with walls of water, of fire, or of iron; but their hopes were disappointed when God assigned to the Angel names different from those which they had previously possessed, so that when called upon they were unable to do what was expected of them.

6. The Names of the Angels.

Besides those already enumerated, we may here mention, [1 Akhtariel, perhaps 'the crown of God,' seems to be the name given to the Deity (Ber. 7 a).] the Sar ha-Olam, or 'Prince of the World' (Yeb. 16 b); the Prince of the Sea, whose name is supposed to have been Rahab, and whom God destroyed because he had refused to receive the waters which had covered the world, and the small of whose dead body would kill every one if it were not covered by water. Dumah is the Angel of the realm of the dead (Ber. 18 b). When the soul of the righteous leaves the body, the ministering Angels announce it before God, Who deputes them to meet it.

Three hosts of Angels then proceed on this errand, each quoting successively one clause of Is. lvii. 2. On the other hand, when the wicked leave the body, they are met by three hosts of destroying Angels, one of which repeats Is. xlviii. 22, another Is. 1. 11, and the third Ezek. xxxii. 19 (Keth. 104 a). Then the souls of all the dead, good or bad, are handed over to Dumah. Yorqemi is the Prince of hail. He had proposed to cool the fiery furnace into which the Three Children were cast, but Gabriel had objected that this might seem a deliverance by natural means, and being himself the Prince of the fire, had proposed, instead of this, to make the furnace cold within and hot without, in order both to deliver the Three Children and to destroy those who watched outside (Pes. 118 a and b) [1 It is said that Gabriel had proposed in this manner of deliver Abraham when in similar danger at the hands of Nimrod.

And, although God had by His own Hand delivered the patriarch, yet Gabriel had obtained this as the reward of his proposal, that he was allowed to deliver the Three Children from the fiery furnace.] Ridya, or Rayda is the Angel of rain. One of the Rabbis professed to describe him from actual vision as like a calf whose lips were open, standing between the Upper and the Lower, Let you waters springs up. The representation of this Angel as a calf may be due to the connection between rain and ploughing, and in connection with this may it be notices that Rayda means both a plough and ploughing (TAan. 25 b).

Of other Angels we will only name the Ruach Pisqonith, or Spirit of decision, who is supposed to have made most daring objection to what God had said, Ezek. xvi. 3, in which he is defended by the Rabbis, since his activity had been on behalf of Israel (Sanh. 44 b); Naqid, the Angel of Food; Nabhel, the Angel of Poverty; the two Angels of Healing; the Angel of Dreams, Lailah; and even the Angel of Lust. [a See also the names of the five angels of destruction of whom Moses was afraid on his descent from the mount. Against three of them the thrice Patriarchs were to fight, God Himself being asked , or else proposing, to combat along with Moses against the other two (Sanh. R. 41; 44)

It is, of course, not asserted that all these grossly materialistic superstitious and profane views were entertained in Palestine, or at the time of our Lord, still less that they are shared by educated Jews in the West. But they certainly date from Talmudic times; they embody the only teaching of Rabbinic writings about the Angels which possess, and hence, whencesoever introduce, or however developed, their roots must be traced back to far earlier times than those when they were propounded in Rabbinic Academies. All the more that modern Judaism would indignantly repudiate them, do they bear testimony against Rabbinic teaching. And one thing at least must be evident, for the sake of which we have undertaken the task of recording at such length views and statements repugnant to all reverent feeling.

The contention of certain modern writers that the teaching about Angels in the New Testament is derived from, and represents Jewish notions must be perceived to be absolutely groundless and contrary to fact. In truth, the teaching of the New Testament on the subject of Angels represents, as compared with that of the Rabbis, not only a return to the purity of Old Testament teaching, but, we might almost say, a new revelation.


The difference between the Satanology of the Rabbis and of the New Testament is , if possible, even more marked than that in their Angelology. In general we note that, with the exception of the word Satan, none of the names given to the great enemy in the New Testament occurs in Rabbinic writing. More important still, the latter contain no mention of a Kingdom of Satan. In other words, the power of the evil is not contrasted with that of good, nor Satan with God. The devil is presented rather as the enemy of man, than of God and of good.

This marks a fundamental difference. The New Testament sets before us two opposing kingdoms, or principles, which exercise absolute sway over man. Christ is 'the Stronger one' who overcometh 'the strong man armed,' and taken from him not only his spoils, but his armour (St. Luke xi. 21, 22). It is a moral contest in which Satan is vanquished, and the liberation of his subjects is the consequence of his own subdual. This implies the deliverance of man from the power of the enemy, not only externally but internally, and substitution of a new principle of spiritual life for the old one. It introduces a moral element, both as the ground and as the result of the contest.

From this point of view the difference between the New Testament and Rabbinism cannot be too much emphasized, and it is no exaggeration to say that this alone, the question here being one of principle not of details, would mark the doctrine of Christ as fundamentally divergent from, and incomparably superior to, that of Rabbinism. 'Whence hath this Man this wisdom?' Assuredly, it may be answered, not from His contemporaries.

Since Rabbinism viewed the 'great enemy' only as the envious and malicious opponent of man, the spiritual element was entirely eliminated. [1 An analogous remark would apply to Jewish teaching about the good angels, who are rather Jewish elves than the high spiritual beings of the Bible.] Instead of the personified principle of Evil, to which there is response in us, and of which all have some experience, we have only a clumsy and, to speak plainly, often a stupid hater. This holds equally true in regard to the threefold aspect under which Rabbinism presents the devil: as Satan (also called Sammael); as the Yester haRa, or evil impulse personified; and as the Angel of Death, in other words, as the Accuser, Tempter, and Punisher. Before explaining the Rabbinic views on each of these points, it is necessary to indicate them in regard to:

1. The Fall of Satan and of his Angels.

This took place, not antecedently, but subsequently to the creation of man. As related in Pirqe de R. Eliezer, ch 13, the primary cause of it was jealously and envy on the part of the Angels. [2 As a curious illustration how extremes meet, we subjoin the following from Jonathan Edwards. After describing how 'Satan, before his fall, was the chief of all the angels ... nay, ... the Messiah or Christ (!), as he was the Anointed, so that in the respect, Jesus Christ is exalted unto his place in heaven'; and that 'Lucifer or Satan, while a holy angel ... was a type of Christ,' the great American divine explains his fall as follows: 'But when it was revealed to him, high and glorious as he was, that he must be a ministering spirit ot the race of mankind which he had seen newly created, which appeared so feeble, mean, and despicable, of vastly inferior not only to him, the prince of the angels, and head of the created universe, but also to the inferior angels, and that he must be subject to one of that race which should hereafter be born, he could not bear it, This occasioned his fall' (Tractate on 'The Fall of the Angels,' Works, vol. ii. pp. 608, 609, 610).

Could Jonathan Edwards have heard of the Rabbinic legends, or is this only a strange coincidence? The curious reader will find much quaint information, though, I fear, little help, in Prof. W. Scott's vol. 'The Existence of Evil Spirits,' London, 1843.] Their opposition to man's creation is also described in Ber. R. 8, although there the fall of man is not traced to Satanic agency. But we have (as before stated) a somewhat blasphemous account of the discussions in the heavenly Sanhedrin, whether or not man should be created. While the dispute was still proceeding God actually created man, and addressed the ministering Angels: 'Why dispute any longer? Man is already created.' In the Pirqe de R. Eliezer, we are only told that the Angels had in vain attempted to oppose the creation of man. The circumstance that his superiority was evidenced by his ability to give names to all creatures, induced them to 'lay a plot against Adam,' so that by his fall they might obtain supremacy.

Now of all Angel-Princes in heaven Sammael was the first, distinguished above Taking the company of Angels subject to him, he came down upon earth, and selected as the only fit instrument for his designs the serpent, which at that time had not only speech, but hands and feet, and was in stature and appearance like the camel. In the language of the Pirqe de R. Eliezer, Sammael took complete possession of the serpent, even as demoniacs act under the absolute control of evil spirits. Then Sammael, in the serpent, first deceived the woman, and next imposed on her by touching the tree of life (although the tree cried out), saying, that he had actually 'touched' the tree, of which he pretended the touch had been forbidden on pain of death (Gen. iii. 3) [1 The Rabbis point out, how Eve had added to the words of God.

He had only commanded them not to eat of the tree, while Eve added to it, that they were not to touch it. Thus adding to the words of God had led to the first sin with all the terrible consequences connected with it.], and yet he had not died! Upon this Eve followed hi example, and touched the tree when she immediately saw the Angel of Death coming against her. Afraid that she would die and God give another wife to Adam, she led her husband into sin of disobedience. The story of the Fall is somewhat differently related in Ber. R. 18, 19. No mention is there earlier of Sammael or of his agency, and the serpent is represented as beguiling Eve from a wish to marry her, and for that purpose to compass the death of Adam.

Critical ingenuity may attempt to find a symbolic meaning in many of the details of the Jewish legend of the Fall, although, to use moderate language, . they seem equally profane and repulsive. But this will surely be admitted by all, that the Rabbinic account of the fall of the Angels, as connected with fall of man, equally contrasts with the reverent reticence of the Old testament narrative and the sublime teaching of the New Testament about sin and evil.

2. Satan, of Sammael, as the accuser of man.

And clumsy, indeed, are his accusations. Thus the statement (Gen. xxii. 1) that 'God tempted Abraham' is, in Jewish legend, transformed (Sanh. 89 b) into a scene, where, in the great upper Sanhedrin (Ber. R. 56), Satan brings accusation against the Patriarch. [2 In BerR. 56 the accusation is stated to have been brought by the ministering angels] All his previous piety had been merely interested; and now when, at the age of one hundred, God had given him a son, he had made a great feast and not offered aught to the Almighty. On this God is represented as answering, that Abraham was ready to sacrifice not only an animal but his own son; and this had been the occasion of the temptation of Abraham.

That this legend is very ancient, indeed pre-Christian (a circumstance of considerable importance to the student of this history) appears from its occurrence, though in more general form, in the Book of Jubilees, ch. xvii. In Ber.R. 55 and in Tacchuma (ed. Warsh p. 29 a and b), the legend is connected with a dispute between Isaac and Ishmeal as to their respective merits, when former declares himself ready to offer up his life unto God. In Tanchuma (u. s.) we are told that this was one of the great merits of man, to which the Almighty and pointed when the Angels made objection to his creation.

3. Satan, or Sammael, as the seducer of man.

This statement in Baba B. 16 a which identifies Satan with the Tester haRa, or evil impulse in man, must be regarded are a rationalistic attempt to gloss over the older teaching about Sammael, by representing him as a personification of the evil inclination within us. For, the Talmud not only distinguishes between a personal Satan without, and evil inclination within man, but expressly ascribes to God the creation of the Yester haRa in man as he was before the Fall, the occurrence of two in the word ('and He formed,' Gen. ii. 7) being supposed to indicate the existence of two impulses in us, the Yester Tobh and the Yester haRa (Ber. 61 a). And it is stated that this existence of evil in man's original nature was infinite comfort in the fear which would otherwise beset us in trouble (Ber. R. 14). More than this (as will presently be shown), the existence of this evil principle within us was declared to be absolutely necessary for the continuance of the world (Yoma 69 b, Sanh. 64 a)

Satan, or Sammael, is introduced as the seducer of man in all the great events of Israel's history. With varying legendary additions the story of Satan's attempts to prevent the obedience of Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac is told in Sanh. 89 b, Ber. R. 56, and Tanchuma, p. 30 a and b. Yet there is nothing even astute, only a coarse realism, about the description of the clumsy attempts of Satan to turn Abraham from, or to hinder him in, his purpose; to influence Isaac; or to frighten Sarah. Nor are the other personages in the legend more successfully sketched.

There is a want of all higher conception in the references to the Almighty, a painful amount of downright untruthfulness about Abraham. Lamentable boastfulness and petty spite about Isaac, while the Sarah of the Jewish legend is rather a weak old Eastern woman that the mother in Israel, To hold perversions of the Old Testament by the side of the New Testament conception of the motives of lives of the heroes of old, or the doctrinal inferences and teaching of the Rabbis by those of Christ and His Apostles, were to compare darkness with light.

The same remarks apply to the other legends in which Satan is introduced as seducer. Anything more childish could scarcely be invented than this, that, when Sammael could not otherwise persuade Israel that Moses would not return from Mount Sinai, he at last made his bier appear before them in the clouds (Shab. 89a), unless it be this story, that when Satan David he assumed the form of a bird, and that, when David shot at it, Bath-Sheba suddenly looked up, thus gaining the king by her beauty (Sanh. 107 a). In both these instances the obvious purpose is to palliate the guilt whether of Israel or of David, which, indeed, is in other places entirely explained away as not due to disobedience or to lust (Comp. Ab. Zar. 4 b, 5 a).

4. As the Enemy of man, Satan seeks to hurt and destroy
him; and he is the Angel of Death.

Thus, when Satan had failed in shaking the constancy of Abraham and Isaac, he attacked Sarah (Yalkut, i. Par. last lines p. 28 b). To his suggestions, or rather false reports, her death had been due, either from fright at being told that Isaac had been offered (Pirqe de R. El. 32, and Targum Ps.- Jon.), or else from the shock, when after all she learned that Isaac was not dead (Ber. R. 58). Similarly, Satan had sought to take from Tamar the pledges which Judah had given her. He appeared as an old man to show Nimrod how to have Abraham cast into the fiery oven, at the same time persuading Abraham not to resist it, &c. Equally puerile are the representations of Satan as the Angel of Death.

According to Abod. Zar. 20 b, the dying sees his enemy with a drawn sword, on the point of which a drop of gall trembles. In his fright he opens his mouth and swallows this drop, which accounts for the pallor of the face and the corruption that follows. According to another Rabbi, the Angel of Death really uses his sword, although, on account of the dignity of humanity, the wound which he inflicts is not allowed to be visible. It is difficult to imagine a narrative more repulsive than that of the death of Moses according to Deb. R. 11.

Beginning with the triumph of Sammael over Michael at the expected event, it tells how Moses had entered rather to be changed into a beast or a bird than to die; how Gabriel and Michael had successively refused to bring the soul of Moses; how Moses, knowing that Sammael was coming for the purpose, had armed himself with the Ineffable Name; how Moses had in boastfulness recounted to Sammael all his achievements, real legendary; and how at last Moses had pursued the Enemy with the Ineffable Name, and in his anger taken off one of his horns of glory and blinded Satan in one eye. We must be excused from following this story through its revolting details.

But, whether as the Angel of Death or as the seducer of man, Sammael has not absolute power. When Israel took upon themselves at Mount Sinai, they became entirely free from hie sway, and would have remained so, but for the sin of the Golden Calf. Similarly, in the time of Ezra, the object of Israel's prayer (Neh. vii.) was to have Satan delivered to them. After a three day's fast it was granted, and the Yetser haRa of idolatry, in the shape of a young lion, was delivered up to them. It would serve no good purpose to repeat the story of what was done with the bound enemy, or now his cries were rendered inaudible in heaven. Suffice it that, in view of the requirements of the present world, Israel liberated him from the ephah covered with lead (Zech. v. 8), under which, by advice of the prophet Zechariah, they had confined him, although for precaution they first put out his eye (Yoam, 69 b). And yet, in view, or probably, rather, in ignorance, of such teaching, modern criticism would deprive the Satanology of the New Testament an the history of the Temptation from Jewish sources!

Over these six persons, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, with whom some apparently rank Benjamin, the Angel of Death, had no power (Baba. B. 17 a). Benjamin, Amram, Jesse, and Chileb (the son of David) are said to have died (only through 'the sin of the serpent.' In other cases, also, Sammael may not be able to exercise his sway till, for example, he has by some ruse diverted a theologian from his sacred study. Thus he interrupted the pious meditations of David by going up into a tree and shaking it, when, as David went to examine it, a rung of the ladder, on which he stood, broke, and so interrupted David's holy thoughts.

Similarly, Rabbi Chasda, by occupation with sacred study, warded off the Angel of Death till the crackling of a beam diverted his attention. Instances of the awkwardness of the Enemy are related (Kethub. 77 b), and one Rabbi, Joshua, actually took away his sword, only returning it by direct command of God. Where such views of Satan could even find temporary expression, superstitious fears may have been excited; but the thought of moral evil and of a moral combat with it could never have found lodgement.

III. Evil Spirits (Shedim, Ruchin, Rucoth, Lilin).

Here also, as throughout, we mark the presence of Parsee elements of superstition. In general, these spirits resemble the gnomes, hobgoblins, elves, and spirits of our fairy tales. They are cunning and malicious, and contact with them is dangerous; but they can scarcely be described as absolutely evil. Indeed, they often prove kind and useful; and may at all times be rendered innocuous, and even made serviceable.

1. Their origin, nature, and numbers.

Opinions differ as to their origin, in fact, they variously originated. According to Ab. 12 b, Ber. R. 7, they were created on the eve of the first Sabbath. But since that time their numbers have greatly increased. For, according of Erub. 18 b. Ber. R. 20 (ed Warsh. p. 40 b), multitudes of them were the offspring of Eve and of male spirits, and of Adam with female spirits, or with Lilith (the queen of the female spirits), during the 130 years that Adam had been under the ban, and before Seth was born (Gen. v. 3): [1 From the expression 'a son in his own likeness,' &c., it is inferred that his previous offspring during the 138 years was not in his likeness.] comp. Erub. 18 b.

Again, their number can scarcely be limited, since they propagate themselves (Chag. 16 a), resembling men in this as well as in their taking of nourishment and dying. On the other hand, like the Angels they have wings, pass unhindered through space, and know the future. Still further, they are produced by a process of transformation from vipers, which, in the course of four times seven years, successively pass through the forms of vampires, thistles and thorns, into Shedim (Bab. K 16 a), perhaps a parabolic form of indicating the origination of Shedim through the fall of man. Another parabolic idea may be implied in the saying that Shedim spring from the backbone of those who have not bent in worship (u.s.).

Although Shedim bear, when they appear, the form of human beings, they may assume any other form. Those of their number who are identified with dirty places are represented as themselves black (Kidd. 72 a). But the reflection of their likeness is not the same as that of man. When conjured up, their position (whether with the head or the feet uppermost) depends on the mode of conjuring. Some of the Shedim have defects. Thus, those of them who lodge in the caper bushes are blind, and an instance is related when one of their number, in pursuit of a Rabbi, fell over the root of a tree and perished (Pes. 111 b).

Trees, gardens, vineyards, and also ruined and desolate houses, but especially dirty places, were their favourite habitation, and the night-time, or before cock-crowing, their special time of appearance. [2 The following Haggadah will illustrate both the power of the evil spirits at night and how amenable they are to reasoning. A Rabbi was distributing his gifts to the poor at night when he was confronted by the Prince of the Ruchin with the quotation Deut. xix. 34 ('Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark'), which seemed to give the 'spirit' a warrant for attacking him. But when the Rabbi replied by quoting Prov. xxi. 14 ('a gift in secret appeaseth wrath'), the 'spirit' fled in confusion (Jer. Peah viii. 9, p. 21 b).] Hence the danger of going alone into such places (Ber. 3 a, b; 62 a).

A company of two escaped the danger, while before three the Shed did not even appear (Ber. 43 b). For the same reason it was dangerous to sleep alone in a house (Shabb. 151 b), while the man who went out before cock-crow, without at least carrying for protection a burning torch (though moonlight was far safer) had his blood on his own head. If you greeted anyone in the dark you might unawares bid Godspeed to a Shed (Sanh. 44 a). Nor was the danger of this inconsiderable, since one of the worst of these Shedim, especially hurtful to Rabbis, was like a dragon with seven heads, each of which dropped off with every successive lowly bending during Rabbi Acha's devotions (Kidd. 29 b). Specially dangerous times were the eyes of Wednesday and of the Sabbath. But it was a comfort to know that the Shedim could not create or produce anything; nor had they power over that which had been counted, measured, tied up and sealed (Chull, 105 b); they could be conquered by the 'Ineffable Name;' and they might be banished by the use of certain formulas, which, when written and worn, served as amulets.

The number of these spirits was like the earth that is thrown up around a bed that is sown. Indeed, no one would survive it, if he saw their number. A thousand at your right hand and ten thousand at your left, such crowding in the Academy or by the side of a bride; such weariness and faintness through their malignant touch, which rent the very dress of the wearers ! (Ber. 6 a) The queen of the female spirits had no less a following than 180,000 (Pres. 112 b). Little as we imagine it, these spirits lurk everywhere around us: in the crumbs on the floor, in the oil in the vessels, in the water which we would drink, in the diseases which attack us, in the even-numbered cups of our drinking, in the air in the room, by day and by night.

2. Their arrangement.

Generally, they may be arranged into male and female spirits, the former under their king Ashmedai, the latter under their queen Lilispirits, the former under their king Ashmedai, the latter under their queen Lilith, probably the same as Agrath bath Machlath, only that the latter may nore fully present hurtful aspect of the demoness. The hurtful spirits are specially designated as Ruchin, Mazziqin (harmers), Malakhey Chabbalath (angels of damage), &c. From another aspect they are arranged into four classes (Targ. Pseudo-Jon. Numb. vi. 24): the Tsaphrire, or morning spirits (Targ. on Ps. cxxi. 6; Targ. Cant. iv. 6); the tihare, or midday spirits (Targ. Pesudo-Jon. Deut. xxxii 24; Targ. Cant. iv. 6); the Telane, or evening spirits (Targ. Pseuod-Jon. on Deut. xxxii. 34; Targ. Is. xxxiv. 14). (According to 2 Targ. Esther ii. 1, 3, Solomon had such power over them, that at his biding they executed dances before him.)

a. Ashmedai
Ashmedai (perhaps a Parsee name), Ashmodi, Ashmedon, or Shamdon, the king of the demons (Gitt. 68 a, b; Pes. 110 a). It deserves notice, that this name does not occur in the Jerusalem Talmud nor in older Palestinian sources. [1 Hamburger ascribes this to the anxiety of the Palestinians to guard Judaism from Gnostic elements. We are, however, willing to recognise in it an indirect influence of Christianity.] He is represented as of immense size and strength, as cunning, malignant, and dissolute. At times, however, he is known also to do works of kindness, such as lead the blind, or to show the road to a drunken man.

Of course, he foreknows the future, can do magic, but may be rendered serviceable by the use of the 'Ineffable Name,' and especially by the signet of King Solomon, on which it was graven. The story of Solomon's power over him is well known and can here only be referred to in briefest outline. It is said, that as no iron was to be used in the construction of the Temple, Solomon was anxious to secure the services of the worm Shamir, which possessed the power of cutting stones (see abou him Ab. z. 12 a; Sot. 48 b; Gitt. 68 a, b). By advice of the Sanhedrin, Solomon conjured up for this purpose a male and a female Shed, who directed him to Ashmedai. The latter lived at the bottom of a deep cistern on a high mountain.

Every morning on leaving it to go into heaven and hear the decrees of the Upper Sanhedrin, he covered the cistern with a stone, and sealed it. On this Benayah, armed with a chain, and Solomon's signet with the Ineffable Name, went and filled the cistern with wine, which Ashmedai, as all other spirits, hated. But as he could not otherwise quench his thirst, Ashmedai became drunk, when it was easy, by means of the magical signet, to secure the chain around him.

Without entering on the story of his exploits, or how he indicated the custody of Shamir, and how ultimately the worm (which was in the custody of the moor-cock [2 The Tarnegol Bera, a mythical animal reaching from earth to heaven (Targ. on Ps. 1, 11), also called Naggar Tura (Gitt. 68 b) from his activity in cleaving mountains.]) was secured, it appears that, by his cunning, Ashmedai finally got released, when he immediately hurled Solomon to a great distance, assumed his form, and reigned in his stead; till at last, after a series of adventures, Solomon recovered his signet, which Ashmedai had flung away, and a fish swallowed. Solomon was recognised by the Sanhedrin and Ashmedai fled at sight of the signet. (Possibly the whole of this is only a parabolic form for the story of Solomon's spiritual declension, and final repentance.)

b. Lilith
Lilith, the queen of female spirits, to be distinguished from the Lilin or night-spirits, and from Lela or Laila, an Angel who accompanied Abraham on his expedition against Chedorlaomer (Sanh. 96 a). Here we recognise still more distinctly the Parsee elements. Lilith is 'the queen of Zemargad' (Targ. on Jobi. 15), 'Zemargad' representing all green crystals, malachite, and emerald, and the land of Zemargad being 'Sheba.' Lilith is described as the mother of Hormiz or Hormuz [2 the superstition 'There's luck in odd numbers' has passed to all nations.] (Baba !. 73 a).

Sometimes she is represented as a very fair woman, but mostly with long, wild-flowing hair, and winged (Nidd. 24 b; Erub. 100 b). In Pes. 111 a we have a formula for exorcising Lillith. In Pes 112b towards the end) we are told how Agrath bath Machlath (probably the Zend word Agra, 'smiting, very wicked' bath Machlath 'the dancer') threatened Rabbi Chanina with serious mischief, had it not been that his greatness had been proclaimed in inhabited places, but finally gave her liberty on the eve of the fourth day and of the Sabbath, which nights accordingly are the most dangerous seasons.

3. Character and habits of the Shedim.

As many of the Angels, so many of the Shedim, are only personifications. Thus, as diseases were often ascribed to their agency, there were Shedim of certain diseases, as of asthma, croup, canine rabies, madness, stomachic diseases, &c. Again, there were local Shedim, as of Samaria, Tiberias, &c. On the other hand, Shedim might be employed in the magic cure of diseases (Shabb. 67 a). In fact, to conjure up and make use of demons was considered lawful although dangerous (Sanh. 101 a), while a little knowledge of of the subject would enable a person to avoid any danger from them. Thus, although Chamath, the demon of oil, brings eruptions on the face, yet the danger is avoided if the oil is used out of the hollow of the hand, and not out of a vessel. Shed Joseph (Pes. 110 a) and the Shed Jonathan (Yeb. 122 a). Rabbis Papa had a young Shed to wait upon him (Vhull. 105 b).

There can, however, be no difficulty in making sure of their real existence. As Shedim have cock's feet, nothing more is required than to strew ashes by the side of one's bed, when in the morning their marks will be perceived (Ber. 6 a; Gitt. 68 b). It was by the shape of his feet that the Sanhedrin hoped to recognise, whether Ashmedia as really Solomon, or not, but it was found that he never appeared with his feet uncovered. The Talmud(Ber. 6 a) describes the following as an infallible means for actually seeing these spirits: Take the afterbirth of a black cat which is the daughter of a black cat, both mother and daughter being firstborn, burn it in the fire, and put some of the ashes in your eyes. Before using them, the ashes must be put into an iron tube, and sealed with an iron signet.

It is added, that Rabbi Bibi successfully tried this experiment, but was hurt by the demons, on which he was restored to health by the prayers of the Rabbis. [1 Dr. Kohut's comparison of Rabbinic Angelology and Demonology with Parseeism (Ueber d. jud. Angelol u. Damonol. in ihrer Abhang. vom Parsismus) is extremely interesting, although not complete and its conclusions sometimes strained. The negative arguments derived from Jewish Angelology and Satanology by the author of 'Supernatural Religion' are based on inaccurate and uncritical information, and do not require detailed discussion.

Other and kindred questions, such as those of amulets, &c., will be treated under demoniac possessions. But may we not here once more and confidently appeal to impartial students whether, in view of this sketch of Jewish Angelology and Satanology, the contention can be sustained that the teaching of Christ on this subject has been derived from Jewish sources?

Author Edersheim refers to MANY reference sources in his works. As a Bibliography resource, we have created a separate Edersheim References list. All of his bracketed references indicate the page numbers in the works referenced.


Catholic Information

(Latin angelus; Greek aggelos; from the Hebrew for "one going" or "one sent"; messenger). The word is used in Hebrew to denote indifferently either a divine or human messenger. The Septuagint renders it by aggelos which also has both significations. The Latin version, however, distinguishes the divine or spirit-messenger from the human, rendering the original in the one case by angelus and in the other by legatus or more generally by nuntius. In a few passages the Latin version is misleading, the word angelus being used where nuntius would have better expressed the meaning, e.g. Isaiah 18:2; 33:3, 6. It is with the spirit-messenger alone that we are here concerned. We have to discuss

the meaning of the term in the Bible,

the offices of the angels,

the names assigned to the angels,

the distinction between good and evil spirits,

the divisions of the angelic choirs,

the question of angelic appearances, and

the development of the scriptural idea of angels.

The angels are represented throughout the Bible as a body of spiritual beings intermediate between God and men: "You have made him (man) a little less than the angels" (Psalm 8:6). They, equally with man, are created beings; "praise ye Him, all His angels: praise ye Him, all His hosts . . . for He spoke and they were made. He commanded and they were created" (Psalm 148:2, 5; Colossians 1:16-17). That the angels were created was laid down in the Fourth Lateran Council (1215). The decree "Firmiter" against the Albigenses declared both the fact that they were created and that men were created after them. This decree was repeated by the Vatican Council, "Dei Filius". We mention it here because the words: "He that liveth for ever created all things together" (Ecclesiasticus 18:1) have been held to prove a simultaneous creation of all things; but it is generally conceded that "together" (simul) may here mean "equally", in the sense that all things were "alike" created. They are spirits; the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says: "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister to them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14).

Attendants at God's throne

It is as messengers that they most often figure in the Bible, but, as St. Augustine, and after him St. Gregory, expresses it: angelus est nomen officii ("angel is the name of the office") and expresses neither their essential nature nor their essential function, viz.: that of attendants upon God's throne in that court of heaven of which Daniel has left us a vivid picture:

I behold till thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days sat: His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like clean wool: His throne like flames of fire: the wheels of it like a burning fire. A swift stream of fire issued forth from before Him: thousands of thousands ministered to Him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him: the judgment sat and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:9-10; cf. also Psalm 96:7; Psalm 102:20; Isaiah 6, etc.)

This function of the angelic host is expressed by the word "assistance" (Job 1:6; 2:1), and our Lord refers to it as their perpetual occupation (Matthew 18:10). More than once we are told of seven angels whose special function it is thus to "stand before God's throne" (Tobit 12:15; Revelation 8:2-5). The same thought may be intended by "the angel of His presence" (Isaiah 63:9) an expression which also occurs in the pseudo-epigraphical "Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs".

God's messengers to mankind

But these glimpses of life beyond the veil are only occasional. The angels of the Bible generally appear in the role of God's messengers to mankind. They are His instruments by whom He communicates His will to men, and in Jacob's vision they are depicted as ascending and descending the ladder which stretches from earth to heaven while the Eternal Father gazes upon the wanderer below. It was an angel who found Agar in the wilderness (Genesis 16); angels drew Lot out of Sodom; an angel announces to Gideon that he is to save his people; an angel foretells the birth of Samson (Judges 13), and the angel Gabriel instructs Daniel (Daniel 8:16), though he is not called an angel in either of these passages, but "the man Gabriel" (9:21). The same heavenly spirit announced the birth of St. John the Baptist and the Incarnation of the Redeemer, while tradition ascribes to him both the message to the shepherds (Luke 2:9), and the most glorious mission of all, that of strengthening the King of Angels in His Agony (Luke 22:43). The spiritual nature of the angels is manifested very clearly in the account which Zacharias gives of the revelations bestowed upon him by the ministry of an angel. The prophet depicts the angel as speaking "in him". He seems to imply that he was conscious of an interior voice which was not that of God but of His messenger. The Massoretic text, the Septuagint, and the Vulgate all agree in thus describing the communications made by the angel to the prophet. It is a pity that the "Revised Version" should, in apparent defiance of the above-named texts, obscure this trait by persistently giving the rendering: "the angel that talked with me: instead of "within me" (cf. Zechariah 1:9, 13, 14; 2:3; 4:5; 5:10).

Such appearances of angels generally last only so long as the delivery of their message requires, but frequently their mission is prolonged, and they are represented as the constituted guardians of the nations at some particular crisis, e.g. during the Exodus (Exodus 14:19; Baruch 6:6). Similarly it is the common view of the Fathers that by "the prince of the Kingdom of the Persians" (Dan., x, 13; x, 21) we are to understand the angel to whom was entrusted the spiritual care of that kingdom, and we may perhaps see in the "man of Macedonia" who appeared to St. Paul at Troas, the guardian angel of that country (Acts 16:9). The Septuagint (Deuteronomy 32:8), has preserved for us a fragment of information on this head, though it is difficult to gauge its exact meaning: "When the Most High divided the nations, when He scattered the children of Adam, He established the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God". How large a part the ministry of angels played, not merely in Hebrew theology, but in the religious ideas of other nations as well, appears from the expression "like to an angel of God". It is three times used of David (2 Samuel 14:17, 20; 14:27) and once by Achis of Geth (1 Samuel 29:9). It is even applied by Esther to Assuerus (Esther 15:16), and St. Stephen's face is said to have looked "like the face of an angel" as he stood before the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:15).

Personal guardians

Throughout the Bible we find it repeatedly implied that each individual soul has its tutelary angel. Thus Abraham, when sending his steward to seek a wife for Isaac, says: "He will send His angel before thee" (Genesis 24:7). The words of the ninetieth Psalm which the devil quoted to our Lord (Matthew 4:6) are well known, and Judith accounts for her heroic deed by saying: "As the Lord liveth, His angel hath been my keeper" (xiii, 20). These passages and many like them (Genesis 16:6-32; Hosea 12:4; 1 Kings 19:5; Acts 12:7; Psalm 33:8), though they will not of themselves demonstrate the doctrine that every individual has his appointed guardian angel, receive their complement in our Saviour's words: "See that you despise not on of these little ones; for I say to you that their angels in Heaven always see the face of My Father Who is in Heaven" (Matthew 18:10), words which illustrate the remark of St. Augustine: "What lies hidden in the Old Testament, is made manifest in the New". Indeed, the book of Tobias seems intended to teach this truth more than any other, and St. Jerome in his commentary on the above words of our Lord says: "The dignity of a soul is so great, that each has a guardian angel from its birth." The general doctrine that the angels are our appointed guardians is considered to be a point of faith, but that each individual member of the human race has his own individual guardian angel is not of faith (de fide); the view has, however, such strong support from the Doctors of the Church that it would be rash to deny it (cf. St. Jerome, supra). Peter the Lombard (Sentences, lib. II, dist. xi) was inclined to think that one angel had charge of several individual human beings. St. Bernard's beautiful homilies (11-14) on the ninetieth Psalm breathe the spirit of the Church without however deciding the question. The Bible represents the angels not only as our guardians, but also as actually interceding for us. "The angel Raphael (Tob., xii, 12) says: "I offered thy prayer to the Lord" (cf. Job, v, 1 (Septuagint), and 33:23 (Vulgate); Apocalypse 8:4). The Catholic cult of the angels is thus thoroughly scriptural. Perhaps the earliest explicit declaration of it is to be found in St. Ambrose's words: "We should pray to the angels who are given to us as guardians" (De Viduis, ix); (cf. St. Aug., Contra Faustum, xx, 21). An undue cult of angels was reprobated by St. Paul (Colossians 2:18), and that such a tendency long remained in the same district is evidenced by Canon 35 of the Synod of Laodicea.

As Divine Agents Governing The World

The foregoing passages, especially those relating to the angels who have charge of various districts, enable us to understand the practically unanimous view of the Fathers that it is the angels who put into execution God's law regarding the physical world. The Semitic belief in genii and in spirits which cause good or evil is well known, and traces of it are to be found in the Bible. Thus the pestilence which devastated Israel for David's sin in numbering the people is attributed to an angel whom David is said to have actually seen (2 Samuel 24:15-17), and more explicitly, I Par., xxi, 14-18). Even the wind rustling in the tree-tops was regarded as an angel (2 Samuel 5:23, 24; 1 Chronicles 14:14, 15). This is more explicitly stated with regard to the pool of Probatica (John 5:1-4), though these is some doubt about the text; in that passage the disturbance of the water is said to be due to the periodic visits of an angel. The Semites clearly felt that all the orderly harmony of the universe, as well as interruptions of that harmony, were due to God as their originator, but were carried out by His ministers. This view is strongly marked in the "Book of Jubilees" where the heavenly host of good and evil angels is every interfering in the material universe. Maimonides (Directorium Perplexorum, iv and vi) is quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theol., I:1:3) as holding that the Bible frequently terms the powers of nature angels, since they manifest the omnipotence of God (cf. St. Jerome, In Mich., vi, 1, 2; P. L., iv, col. 1206). Hierarchical organization

Though the angels who appear in the earlier works of the Old Testament are strangely impersonal and are overshadowed by the importance of the message they bring or the work they do, there are not wanting hints regarding the existence of certain ranks in the heavenly army.

After Adam's fall Paradise is guarded against our First Parents by cherubim who are clearly God's ministers, though nothing is said of their nature. Only once again do the cherubim figure in the Bible, viz., in Ezechiel's marvellous vision, where they are described at great length (Ezekiel 1), and are actually called cherub in Ezechiel 10. The Ark was guarded by two cherubim, but we are left to conjecture what they were like. It has been suggested with great probability that we have their counterpart in the winged bulls and lions guarding the Assyrian palaces, and also in the strange winged men with hawks' heads who are depicted on the walls of some of their buildings. The seraphim appear only in the vision of Isaias 6:6.

Mention has already been made of the mystic seven who stand before God, and we seem to have in them an indication of an inner cordon that surrounds the throne. The term archangel occurs only in St. Jude and 1 Thessalonians 4:15; but St. Paul has furnished us with two other lists of names of the heavenly cohorts. He tells us (Ephesians 1:21) that Christ is raised up "above all principality, and power, and virtue, and dominion"; and, writing to the Colossians (1:16), he says: "In Him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominations, or principalities or powers." It is to be noted that he uses two of these names of the powers of darkness when (2:15) he talks of Christ as "despoiling the principalities and powers . . . triumphing over them in Himself". And it is not a little remarkable that only two verses later he warns his readers not to be seduced into any "religion of angels". He seems to put his seal upon a certain lawful angelology, and at the same time to warn them against indulging superstition on the subject. We have a hint of such excesses in the Book of Enoch, wherein, as already stated, the angels play a quite disproportionate part. Similarly Josephus tells us (Bel. Jud., II, viii, 7) that the Essenes had to take a vow to preserve the names of the angels.

We have already seen how (Daniel 10:12-21) various districts are allotted to various angels who are termed their princes, and the same feature reappears still more markedly in the Apocalyptic "angels of the seven churches", though it is impossible to decide what is the precise signification of the term. These seven Angels of the Churches are generally regarded as being the Bishops occupying these sees. St. Gregory Nazianzen in his address to the Bishops at Constantinople twice terms them "Angels", in the language of the Apocalypse. The treatise "De Coelesti Hierarchia", which is ascribed to St. Denis the Areopagite, and which exercised so strong an influence upon the Scholastics, treats at great length of the hierarchies and orders of the angels. It is generally conceded that this work was not due to St. Denis, but must date some centuries later. Though the doctrine it contains regarding the choirs of angels has been received in the Church with extraordinary unanimity, no proposition touching the angelic hierarchies is binding on our faith. The following passages from St. Gregory the Great (Hom. 34, In Evang.) will give us a clear idea of the view of the Church's doctors on the point:

We know on the authority of Scripture that there are nine orders of angels, viz., Angels, Archangels, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Dominations, Throne, Cherubim and Seraphim. That there are Angels and Archangels nearly every page of the Bible tell us, and the books of the Prophets talk of Cherubim and Seraphim. St. Paul, too, writing to the Ephesians enumerates four orders when he says: 'above all Principality, and Power, and Virtue, and Domination'; and again, writing to the Colossians he says: 'whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers'. If we now join these two lists together we have five Orders, and adding Angels and Archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim, we find nine Orders of Angels.

St. Thomas (Summa Theologica I:108), following St. Denis (De Coelesti Hierarchia, vi, vii), divides the angels into three hierarchies each of which contains three orders. Their proximity to the Supreme Being serves as the basis of this division. In the first hierarchy he places the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones; in the second, the Dominations, Virtues, and Powers; in the third, the Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. The only Scriptural names furnished of individual angels are Raphael, Michael, and Gabriel, names which signify their respective attributes. Apocryphal Jewish books, such as the Book of Enoch, supply those of Uriel and Jeremiel, while many are found in other apocryphal sources, like those Milton names in "Paradise Lost". (On superstitious use of such names, see above).

The number of angels

The number of the angels is frequently stated as prodigious (Daniel 7:10; Apocalypse 5:11; Psalm 67:18; Matthew 26:53). From the use of the word host (sabaoth) as a synonym for the heavenly army it is hard to resist the impression that the term "Lord of Hosts" refers to God's Supreme command of the angelic multitude (cf. Deuteronomy 33:2; 32:43; Septuagint). The Fathers see a reference to the relative numbers of men and angels in the parable of the hundred sheep (Luke 15:1-3), though this may seem fanciful. The Scholastics, again, following the treatise "De Coelesti Hierarchia" of St. Denis, regard the preponderance of numbers as a necessary perfection of the angelic host (cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica I:1:3).

The evil angels

The distinction of good and bad angels constantly appears in the Bible, but it is instructive to note that there is no sign of any dualism or conflict between two equal principles, one good and the other evil. The conflict depicted is rather that waged on earth between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the Evil One, but the latter's inferiority is always supposed. The existence, then, of this inferior, and therefore created, spirit, has to be explained.

The gradual development of Hebrew consciousness on this point is very clearly marked in the inspired writings. The account of the fall of our First Parents (Genesis 3) is couched in such terms that it is impossible to see in it anything more than the acknowledgment of the existence of a principle of evil who was jealous of the human race. The statement (Genesis 6:1) that the "sons of God" married the daughters of men is explained of the fall of the angels, in Enoch, vi-xi, and codices, D, E F, and A of the Septuagint read frequently, for "sons of God", oi aggeloi tou theou. Unfortunately, codices B and C are defective in Genesis 6, but it is probably that they, too, read oi aggeloi in this passage, for they constantly so render the expression "sons of God"; cf. Job, i, 6; ii, 1; xxxviii, 7; but on the other hand, see Ps., ii, 1; lxxxviii, & (Septuagint). Philo, in commenting on the passage in his treatise "Quod Deus sit immutabilis", i, follows the Septuagint. For Philo's doctrine of Angels, cf. "De Vita Mosis", iii, 2, "De Somniis", VI: "De Incorrupta Manna", i; "De Sacrificis", ii; "De Lege Allegorica", I, 12; III, 73; and for the view of Gen., vi, 1, cf. St. Justin, Apol., ii 5. It should moreover be noted that the Hebrew word nephilim rendered gigantes, in 6:4, may mean "fallen ones". The Fathers generally refer it to the sons of Seth, the chosen stock. In 1 Samuel 19:9, an evil spirit is said to possess Saul, though this is probably a metaphorical expression; more explicit is 1 Kings 22:19-23, where a spirit is depicted as appearing in the midst of the heavenly army and offering, at the Lord's invitation, to be a lying spirit in the mouth of Achab's false prophets. We might, with Scholastics, explain this is malum poenae, which is actually caused by God owing to man's fault. A truer exegesis would, however, dwell on the purely imaginative tone of the whole episode; it is not so much the mould in which the message is cast as the actual tenor of that message which is meant to occupy our attention.

The picture afforded us in Job 1 and 2 is equally imaginative; but Satan, perhaps the earliest individualization of the fallen Angel, is presented as an intruder who is jealous of Job. He is clearly an inferior being to the Deity and can only touch Job with God's permission. How theologic thought advanced as the sum of revelation grew appears from a comparison of 2 Samuel 24:1, with 1 Chronicles 21:1. Whereas in the former passage David's sin was said to be due to "the wrath of the Lord" which "stirred up David", in the latter we read that "Satan moved David to number Israel". In Job. iv, 18, we seem to find a definite declaration of the fall: "In His angels He found wickedness." The Septuagint of Job contains some instructive passages regarding avenging angels in whom we are perhaps to see fallen spirits, thus xxxiii, 23: "If a thousand death-dealing angels should be (against him) not one of them shall wound him"; and xxxvi, 14: "If their souls should perish in their youth (through rashness) yet their life shall be wounded by the angels"; and xxi, 15: "The riches unjustly accumulated shall be vomited up, an angel shall drag him out of his house;" cf. Prov., xvii, 11; Ps., xxxiv, 5, 6; lxxvii, 49, and especially, Ecclesiasticus, xxxix, 33, a text which, as far as can be gathered from the present state of the manuscript, was in the Hebrew original. In some of these passages, it is true, the angels may be regarded as avengers of God's justice without therefore being evil spirits. In Zach., iii, 1-3, Satan is called the adversary who pleads before the Lord against Jesus the High Priest. Isaias, xiv, and Ezech., xxviii, are for the Fathers the loci classici regarding the fall of Satan (cf. Tertull., adv. Marc., II, x); and Our Lord Himself has given colour to this view by using the imagery of the latter passage when saying to His Apostles: "I saw Satan like lightning falling from heaven" (Luke 10:18). In New Testament times the idea of the two spiritual kingdoms is clearly established. The devil is a fallen angel who in his fall has drawn multitudes of the heavenly host in his train. Our Lord terms him "the Prince of this world" (John xiv, 30); he is the tempter of the human race and tries to involve them in his fall (Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 11:14; 12:7). Christian imagery of the devil as the dragon is mainly derived from the Apocalypse (ix, 11-15; xii, 7-9), where he is termed "the angel of the bottomless pit", "the dragon", "the old serpent", etc., and is represented as having actually been in combat with Archangel Michael. The similarity between scenes such as these and the early Babylonian accounts of the struggle between Merodach and the dragon Tiamat is very striking. Whether we are to trace its origin to vague reminiscences of the mighty saurians which once people the earth is a moot question, but the curious reader may consult Bousett, "The Anti-Christ Legend" (tr. by Keane, London, 1896). The translator has prefixed to it an interesting discussion on the origin of the Babylonian Dragon-Myth.

The Term "Angel" In The Septuagint

We have had occasion to mention the Septuagint version more than once, and it may not be amiss to indicate a few passages where it is our only source of information regarding the angels. The best known passage is Is., ix, 6, where the Septuagint gives the name of the Messias, as "the Angel of great Counsel". We have already drawn attention to Job, xx, 15, where the Septuagint reads "Angel" instead of "God", and to xxxvi, 14, where there seems to be question of evil angels. In ix 7, Septuagint (B) adds: "He is the Hebrew (v, 19) say of "Behemoth": "He is the beginning of the ways of God, he that made him shall make his sword to approach him:, the Septuagint reads: "He is the beginning of God's creation, made for His Angels to mock at", and exactly the same remark is made about "Leviathan", xli, 24. We have already seen that the Septuagint generally renders the term "sons of God" by "angels", but in Deut., xxxii, 43, the Septuagint has an addition in which both terms appear: "Rejoice in Him all ye heavens, and adore Him all ye angels of God; rejoice ye nations with His people, and magnify Him all ye Sons of God." Nor does the Septuagint merely give us these additional references to angels; it sometimes enables us to correct difficult passages concerning them in the Vulgate and Massoretic text. Thus the difficult Elim of MT in Job, xli, 17, which the Vulgate renders by "angels", becomes "wild beasts" in the Septuagint version.

The early ideas as to the personality of the various angelic appearances are, as we have seen, remarkably vague. At first the angels are regarded in quite an impersonal way (Genesis 16:7). They are God's vice-regents and are often identified with the Author of their message (Genesis 48:15-16). But while we read of "the Angels of God" meeting Jacob (Genesis 32:1) we at other times read of one who is termed "the Angel of God" par excellence, e.g. Gen., xxxi, 11. It is true that, owing to the Hebrew idiom, this may mean no more than "an angel of God", and the Septuagint renders it with or without the article at will; yet the three visitors at Mambre seem to have been of different ranks, though St. Paul (Hebrews 13:2) regarded them all as equally angels; as the story in Ge., xiii, develops, the speaker is always "the Lord". Thus in the account of the Angel of the Lord who visited Gideon (Judges 6), the visitor is alternately spoken of as "the Angel of the Lord" and as "the Lord". Similarly, in Judges 13, xiii, the Angel of the Lord appears, and both Manue and his wife exclaim: "We shall certainly die because we have seen God." This want of clearness is particularly apparent in the various accounts of the Angel of Exodus. In Judges 6, just now referred to, the Septuagint is very careful to render the Hebrew "Lord" by "the Angel of the Lord"; but in the story of the Exodus it is the Lord who goes before them in the pillar of a cloud (Exodus 13:21), and the Septuagint makes no change (cf. also Num., xiv, 14, and Neh., ix, 7-20. Yet in Exod., xiv, 19, their guide is termed "the Angel of God". When we turn to Exod., xxxiii, where God is angry with His people for worshipping the golden calf, it is hard not to feel that it is God Himself who has hitherto been their guide, but who now refuses to accompany them any longer. God offers an angel instead, but at Moses's petition He says (14) "My face shall go before thee", which the Septuagint reads by autos though the following verse shows that this rendering is clearly impossible, for Moses objects: "If Thou Thyself dost not go before us, bring us not out of this place." But what does God mean by "my face"? Is it possible that some angel of specially high rank is intended, as in Is., lxiii, 9 (cf. Tobias, xii, 15)? May not this be what is meant by "the angel of God" (cf. Numbers 20:16)?

That a process of evolution in theological thought accompanied the gradual unfolding of God's revelation need hardly be said, but it is especially marked in the various views entertained regarding the person of the Giver of the Law. The Massoretic text as well as the Vulgate of Exod., iii and xix-xx clearly represent the Supreme Being as appearing to Moses in the bush and on Mount Sinai; but the Septuagint version, while agreeing that it was God Himself who gave the Law, yet makes it "the angel of the Lord" who appeared in the bush. By New Testament times the Septuagint view has prevailed, and it is now not merely in the bush that the angel of the Lord, and not God Himself appears, but the angel is also the Giver of the Law (cf. Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2; Acts 7:30). The person of "the angel of the Lord" finds a counterpart in the personification of Wisdom in the Sapiential books and in at least one passage (Zechariah 3:1) it seems to stand for that "Son of Man" whom Daniel (vii, 13) saw brought before "the Ancient of Days". Zacharias says: "And the Lord showed me Jesus the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan stood on His right hand to be His adversary". Tertullian regards many of these passages as preludes to the Incarnation; as the Word of God adumbrating the sublime character in which He is one day to reveal Himself to men (cf. adv, Prax., xvi; adv. Marc., II, 27; III, 9: I, 10, 21, 22). It is possible, then, that in these confused views we can trace vague gropings after certain dogmatic truths regarding the Trinity, reminiscences perhaps of the early revelation of which the Protevangelium in Genesis 3 is but a relic. The earlier Fathers, going by the letter of the text, maintained that it was actually God Himself who appeared. he who appeared was called God and acted as God. It was not unnatural then for Tertullian, as we have already seen, to regard such manifestations in the light of preludes to the Incarnation, and most of the Eastern Fathers followed the same line of thought. It was held as recently as 1851 by Vandenbroeck, "Dissertatio Theologica de Theophaniis sub Veteri Testamento" (Louvain).

But the great Latins, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and St. Gregory the Great, held the opposite view, and the Scholastics as a body followed them. St. Augustine (Sermo vii, de Scripturis, P. G. V) when treating of the burning bush (Exodus 3) says: "That the same person who spoke to Moses should be deemed both the Lord and an angel of the Lord, is very hard to understand. It is a question which forbids any rash assertions but rather demands careful investigation . . . Some maintain that he is called both the Lord and the angel of the Lord because he was Christ, indeed the prophet (Isaiah 9:6, Septuagint Version) clearly styles Christ the 'Angel of great Counsel.'" The saint proceeds to show that such a view is tenable though we must be careful not to fall into Arianism in stating it. He points out, however, that if we hold that it was an angel who appeared, we must explain how he came to be called "the Lord," and he proceeds to show how this might be: "Elsewhere in the Bible when a prophet speaks it is yet said to be the Lord who speaks, not of course because the prophet is the Lord but because the Lord is in the prophet; and so in the same way when the Lord condescends to speak through the mouth of a prophet or an angel, it is the same as when he speaks by a prophet or apostle, and the angel is correctly termed an angel if we consider him himself, but equally correctly is he termed 'the Lord' because God dwells in him." He concludes: "It is the name of the indweller, not of the temple." And a little further on: "It seems to me that we shall most correctly say that our forefathers recognized the Lord in the angel," and he adduces the authority of the New Testament writers who clearly so understood it and yet sometimes allowed the same confusion of terms (cf. Hebrews 2:2, and Acts 7:31-33). The saint discusses the same question even more elaborately, "In Heptateuchum," lib. vii, 54, P. G. III, 558. As an instance of how convinced some of the Fathers were in holding the opposite view, we may note Theodoret's words (In Exod.): "The whole passage (Exodus 3) shows that it was God who appeared to him. But (Moses) called Him an angel in order to let us know that it was not God the Father whom he saw -- for whose angel could the Father be? -- but the Only-begotten Son, the Angel of great Counsel" (cf. Eusebius, Hist. Eccles., I, ii, 7; St. Irenaeus, Haer., iii, 6). But the view propounded by the Latin Fathers was destined to live in the Church, and the Scholastics reduced it to a system (cf. St. Thomas, Quaest., Disp., De Potentia, vi, 8, ad 3am); and for a very good exposition of both sides of the question, cf. "Revue biblique," 1894, 232-247.

Angels In Babylonian Literature

The Bible has shown us that a belief in angels, or spirits intermediate between God and man, is a characteristic of the Semitic people. It is therefore interesting to trace this belief in the Semites of Babylonia. According to Sayce (The Religions of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia, Gifford Lectures, 1901), the engrafting of Semitic beliefs on the earliest Sumerian religion of Babylonia is marked by the entrance of angels or sukallin in their theosophy. Thus we find an interesting parallel to "the angels of the Lord" in Nebo, "the minister of Merodach" (ibid., 355). He is also termed the "angel" or interpreter of the will or Merodach (ibid., 456), and Sayce accepts Hommel's statement that it can be shown from the Minean inscriptions that primitive Semitic religion consisted of moon and star worship, the moon-god Athtar and an "angel" god standing at the head of the pantheon (ibid., 315). The Biblical conflict between the kingdoms of good and evil finds its parallel in the "spirits of heaven" or the Igigi--who constituted the "host" of which Ninip was the champion (and from who he received the title of "chief of the angels") and the "spirits of the earth", or Annuna-Ki, who dwelt in Hades (ibid. 355). The Babylonian sukalli corresponded to the spirit-messengers of the Bible; they declared their Lord's will and executed his behests (ibid., 361). Some of them appear to have been more than messengers; they were the interpreters and vicegerents of the supreme deity, thus Nebo is "the prophet of Borsippa". These angels are even termed "the sons" of the deity whose vicegerents they are; thus Ninip, at one time the messenger of En-lil, is transformed into his son just as Merodach becomes the son of Ea (ibid., 496). The Babylonian accounts of the Creation and the Flood do not contrast very favourably with the Biblical accounts, and the same must be said of the chaotic hierarchies of gods and angels which modern research has revealed. perhaps we are justified in seeing all forms of religion vestiges of a primitive nature-worship which has at times succeeded in debasing the purer revelation, and which, where that primitive revelation has not received successive increments as among the Hebrews, results in an abundant crop of weeds.

Thus the Bible certainly sanctions the idea of certain angels being in charge of special districts (cf. Dan., x, and above). This belief persists in a debased form in the Arab notion of Genii, or Jinns, who haunt particular spots. A reference to it is perhaps to be found in Genesis 32:1-2: "Jacob also went on the journey he had begun: and the angels of God met him: And when he saw then he said: These are the camps of God, and he called the name of that place Mahanaim, that is, 'Camps.' " Recent explorations in the Arab district about Petra have revealed certain precincts marked off with stones as the abiding-laces of angels, and the nomad tribes frequent them for prayer and sacrifice. These places bear a name which corresponds exactly with the "Mahanaim" of the above passage in Genesis (cf. Lagrange, Religions Semitques, 184, and Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, 445). Jacob's vision at Bethel (Genesis 28:12) may perhaps come under the same category. Suffice it to say that not everything in the Bible is revelation, and that the object of the inspired writings is not merely to tell us new truths but also to make clearer certain truths taught us by nature. The modern view, which tends to regard everything Babylonian as absolutely primitive and which seems to think that because critics affix a late date to the Biblical writings the religion therein contained must also be late, may be seen in Haag, "Theologie Biblique" (339). This writer sees in the Biblical angels only primitive deities debased into demi-gods by the triumphant progress of Monotheism.

Angels in the Zend-Avesta

Attempts have also been made to trace a connection between the angels of the Bible and the "great archangels" or "Amesha-Spentas" of the Zend-Avesta. That the Persian domination and the Babylonian captivity exerted a large influence upon the Hebrew conception of the angels is acknowledged in the Talmud of Jerusalem, Rosch Haschanna, 56, where it is said that the names of the angels were introduced from Babylon. It is, however, by no means clear that the angelic beings who figure so largely in the pages of the Avesta are to be referred to the older Persian Neo-Zoroastrianism of the Sassanides. If this be the case, as Darmesteter holds, we should rather reverse the position and attribute the Zoroastrian angels to the influence of the Bible and of Philo. Stress has been laid upon the similarity between the Biblical "seven who stand before God" and the seven Amesha-Spentas of the Zend-Avesta. But it must be noted that these latter are really six, the number seven is only obtained by counting "their father, Ahura-Mazda," among them as their chief. Moreover, these Zoroastrian archangels are more abstract that concrete; they are not individuals charged with weighty missions as in the Bible.

Angels in the New Testament

Hitherto we have dwelt almost exclusively on the angels of the Old Testament, whose visits and messages have been by no means rare; but when we come to the New Testament their name appears on every page and the number of references to them equals those in the Old Dispensation. It is their privilege to announce to Zachary and Mary the dawn of Redemption, and to the shepherds its actual accomplishment. Our Lord in His discourses talks of them as one who actually saw them, and who, whilst "conversing amongst men", was yet receiving the silent unseen adoration of the hosts of heaven. He describes their life in heaven (Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:36); He tell us how they form a bodyguard round Him and at a word from Him would avenge Him on His enemies (Matthew 26:53); it is the privilege of one of them to assist Him in His Agony and sweat of Blood. More than once He speaks of them as auxiliaries and witnesses at the final judgment (Matthew 16:27), which indeed they will prepare (ibid., xiii, 39-49); and lastly, they are the joyous witnesses of His triumphant Resurrection (ibid., xxviii, 2).

It is easy for skeptical minds to see in these angelic hosts the mere play of Hebrew fancy and the rank growth of superstition, but do not the records of the angels who figure in the Bible supply a most natural and harmonious progression? In the opening page of the sacred story of the Jewish nation is chose out from amongst others as the depositary of God's promise; as the people from whose stock He would one day raise up a Redeemer. The angels appear in the course of this chosen people's history, now as God's messengers, now as that people's guides; at one time they are the bestowers of God's law, at another they actually prefigure the Redeemer Whose divine purpose they are helping to mature. They converse with His prophets, with David and Elias, with Daniel and Zacharias; they slay the hosts camped against Israel, they serve as guides to God's servants, and the last prophet, Malachi, bears a name of peculiar significance; "the Angel of Jehovah." He seems to sum up in his very name the previous "ministry by the hands of angels", as though God would thus recall the old-time glories of the Exodus and Sinai. The Septuagint, indeed, seems not to know his name as that of an individual prophet and its rendering of the opening verse of his prophecy is peculiarly solemn: "The burden of the Word of the Lord of Israel by the hand of His angel; lay it up in your hearts." All this loving ministry on the part of the angels is solely for the sake of the Saviour, on Whose face they desire to look. Hence when the fullness of time was arrived it is they who bring the glad message, and sing "Gloria in excelsis Deo". They guide the newborn King of Angels in His hurried flight into Egypt, and minister to Him in the desert. His second coming and the dire events that must precede that, are revealed to His chosen servant in the island of Patmos, It is a question of revelation again, and consequently its ministers and messengers of old appear once more in the sacred story and the record of God's revealing love ends fittingly almost as it had begun: "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches" (Revelation 22:16). It is easy for the student to trace the influence of surrounding nations and of other religions in the Biblical account of the angels. Indeed it is needful and instructive to do so, but it would be wrong to shut our eyes to the higher line of development which we have shown and which brings out so strikingly the marvellous unity and harmony of the whole divine story of the Bible. (See also ANGELS IN EARLY CHRISTIAN ART.)

Publication information Written by Hugh T. Pope. Transcribed by Jim Holden. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Published 1907. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


In addition to works mentioned above, see St. Thomas, Summa Theol., I, QQ. 50-54 and 106-114; Suarez De Angelis, lib. i-iv.

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